Who am I?Where am I?

16 October 2009

Mango Envy

I received an email about a month ago that I had full intentions of sharing. It was a true story from a man who had a major impact on my life as a student at Howard University. "Dean" Keene was one of the first people I met upon arriving at Howard. Over the years, I had many interactions with him. None of them were ever negative. Even though he was very busy, he always took time to speak with me and was supportive of initiatives taken to improve student life. He has since retired with his wife and lives in Panama where in retirement he runs a travel agency. Thus if you ever need any help with your travel plans, feel free to contact him! Here is his story....

Amigos and Vecinos (Friends and Neighbors),

Some of you, no doubt, have grown tired of me telling my mournful tale.
My wife and I, at Sunset Dreams, have had three, count 'em 3, mango trees and not one single mango in the almost 5 years we've been here.

Might not seem serious to you, but the only reason I wanted to buy this house in the first place ;-) was because it had mango trees. LOL!! I love the flavor of mango. It's a unique and sensuous flavor that tickles the palate and incites the imagination. It is also, for me, a comfort food. For most North American people of my generation, 'comfort foods' are meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, etc. or some ethnic delight that your Mom would cook. So how'd a New York City kid get mangoes on that list? Well, because I remember my Jamaican-born dad bringing home from the market - or perhaps a street vendor in Harlem - a mango (or an "alligator pear" - avocado) like it was pirate treasure. I can only imagine how much he paid for these rare tropical treats back in those days.

Dad would huddle over it at the kitchen table, knife at the ready, split it open, and peel it back, all the while appearing to protect it from prying eyes or as if anyone might want more than just a little taste. Dad had a wide range of exotic tastes in food. However, Dad did not relate to "soul food delicacies", like chitlins, that my Mom liked (I didn't and don't). But Dad did like anything "out of the sea", as he put it, including smoked eel, which only Chips, our omnivorous pet dog, would enjoy with him. More precisely, Chips got what was left - the skin. Because I was then a very picky eater, Dad didn't have to worry about me with most of his more interesting choices, but I DID enjoy mango. It was an unusual taste that, for some reason, I liked, though I remember I didn't like the slipperiness of the mango slices. (My wife, Ife, reminds me that she, too, was/is omnivorous and that Dad would joyfully share his treasures with her when we were newlyweds.)

Well, anyway, that is how mango became a comfort food for me, despite how infrequently I ate it.

So, we come to our little slice of mountain paradise in 2004 and wait for mangoes to sprout from our trees - count 'em 3 trees. I'm a city kid and don't know a thing about fruit trees. This is a semi-tropical paradise, so I have no idea when mango season comes. All I know is that everybody else has mangoes at certain times and we don't have any - not even one. Friends and strangers have mangoes on their trees and I try to hide my jealousy and envy. I hint that maybe, just maybe, they might have some extra ones and to my great surprise they are all very generous. Only later, did I discover that people with mango trees - which actually bear fruit -consider the mangoes a mixed blessing. They must be picked up before they start stinking up the neighborhood. The mangoes high in a large tree are difficult to pick, etc. But let them walk a mile in my sandals, I say!!!

Mango trees with no mangoes! Now, that is not a mixed blessing; that is a curse. And this curse - with its accompanying jealousies and envy (which I have successfully hidden from my wife, Ife, who will be surprised to read this) - has haunted me, lo, these many years. Each and every mango season I have waited in vain with bated breath for a sign of a mango fruit. I even asked around. A couple of people told us that we needed a male and female mango tree in proximity to cross pollinate. Heck, I majored in psychology not agriculture - or mangology. How do you tell a female mango from male mango, anyway? Just in case, we bought a mango sapling and planted it hoping it was of the opposite gender of the mango tree a couple of meters away. One person told me that perhaps we had a type of tree which might take 7 or 8 years to yield fruit. Our gardener, Luis, agreed with that theory. This is the eighth year of the trees that were planted by the previous owners.

Well, GLORY BE!!!! Yesterday, in one of our 4 - now, count 'em 4 - mango trees, I saw a single, solitary, lonely but absolutely beautiful and perfect MANGO!!!! Just the right shape & right color of the good-eating type of mango I have yearned for and been envious about for all these years. Luis says it is a 'criollla mango.' It could a 'Batman and Robin mango' for all I care, as long as I can harvest that sucker, use our mango slicer to remove the seed and eat that same pirate treasure that so enthralled my Dad fifty and more years ago. Plus, they say food grown on your own finca tastes better than any other. It was true of the peppers, plantain, mandarina and papaya (not so much the naranja), so my expectations are quite high for this one, singular mango. Neighbors, your mangoes are - as my Dad would say, at last and at length -safe!

And....I promise not to complain if the trees don't produce even one other one.

After all, it is better to have mango'd and lost than never to have mango'd at all.



uba said...


Anonymous said...

Hahaha.. I can relate. My apple tree only gets one apple a year.- E.I.